What is the “restraining” in 2 Thessalonians 2:6? 


By BibleAsk Team

2 Thessalonians 2:6

The apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonian Church, “And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time” (2 Thessalonians 2:6). The word “restraining” means also “withholding.” It is written in a neuter gender in the Greek. In verse 7, Paul gives another like expression, but uses the masculine gender, “the withholding one,” or “he who withholds.” 

Bible Commentators give different interpretations to 2 Thessalonians 2: 6–12. And the reason for that is due to the fact that Paul is speaking to the Thessalonians in a hidden manner so that the enemies of the church would not understand. 

Exact View for Restraining

Some have interpreted the “restraining” power to be the Roman Empire. Pagan persecutions prevented the church from accepting the pagan beliefs, and thus held back the rise of the papacy. Perhaps, the apostle Paul does not here pinpoint the restraining power because he is discussing a sensitive matter on which he wishes not be clearer for fear of inflicting more persecution upon Christ’s new followers should his epistle fall in the hands of Roman authorities.  

Broad View for Restraining

Others believe that the masculine form “he who withholds” refers to God. In such an interpretation, “what restrains” could be considered as a pointer to the circumstances designed and allowed by the Lord (Daniel 4:17) to hold back the revelation of the Antichrist, both in his historical phase, in the past, and in his last revelation, yet to come.  

Paul spoke about the Antichrist in the following passage: “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,  who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2: 3,4).  

The Antichrist will be manifested when the right time comes. When applied to the historical papacy (verse 4), this has been understood to refer to the 1260-year period of rule of that religious power (Daniel 7:25; Revelation 12:6).  When given the broad application (2 Thessalonians 2:4), the passage is understood to refer to the time when Satan will play a personal role in the final events only to have his carefully laid plans for world control exposed (2 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 17:16). 

To Bible students, the marks of identity that are listed in verses 3, 4 are familiar, since they are written in other passages of God’s Word. A comparison with Daniel’s prophecy of the blasphemous power that succeeds that of pagan Rome (Daniel 7:8, 19–26), and with John’s word picture of the leopard-like beast (Revelation 13:1–18), shows many similarities between the 3 accounts.  

Therefore, we can conclude that Daniel, Paul, and John are writing about the same power, which is the papacy. Many Bible commentators apply the term Antichrist, “one who opposes Christ,” or “one who stands in the place of Christ” (1 John 2:18), to the papacy.  

The one behind the Antichrist is Satan, who has long fought to be “like the most High” (Isaiah 14:14). The plan of antichrist, to continue the rebellion he began in heaven, will be carried out by his followers. Today, Satan is working very hard to make himself as God and to destroy all who oppose his power (1 Peter 5:8). Very soon, he will appear as the true Christ (Matthew 24:24), and then the law of God will be fully made void (Daniel 7:25). And he will deceive the world by his marvelous miracles (Revelation 13:14; 18:23).

In His service,

BibleAsk Team


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